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Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby BBruce107 » Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:54 am

Hi all,

I have been intrigued exactly why people have been switching to stainless steel mouthpieces over brass mouthpieces. I play exclusively stainless steel myself and know that it works for me but I am curious as to what advantages steel has over brass and vise versa.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby the elephant » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:10 pm

For me it feels like gold plate but it cannot wear off and does not include a serious financial penalty in order to get that feel.

It looks nice, too.

There is pretty much zero difference in how SS sounds out front to the audience versus brass (regardless of plating). Some makers simply prefer to work in SS and some in traditional brass. If I were to start up a mouthpiece business today I would only use SS because my experiences with it have generally been very good. With brass I have had several occasions where the plating came off or wore through (for whatever reason) and this made the piece useless to me due to skin issues with the raw brass. Some do not have this sensitivity. Some have it much worse than I do. Since SS is not plated this cannot happen. If the rim surface wears some over time (or is nicked or scratched) you are only "exposed" to the same material. It can be carefully sanded, burnished and buffed so that anything you can feel is no longer an issue. If this can be done in a way that does not affect how you play on the mouthpiece then you are done. With a brass piece you have to fix the issue and then you have to fix the plating.
In the multiverse there is a TubeNet where we talk about how we greased our cat with toothpaste and hot sauce so it would fly better in the rain. Even then someone would ask whether the cat was lacquered or silver plated.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Voisi1ev » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:30 pm

Yeah they feel really great. Nothing wrong with liking gear if it makes you more comfortable.

My sweat/body chemistry levels tend to eat through anything, like my steering wheel, mouthpieces, radio dials, parts of horn that I touch.....so the finish not wearing off, at least I've got that going for me, which is nice.

I also picked up a Baer MMVI a few months and go and fell in love. It happens to be stainless.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby BBruce107 » Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:07 pm

I can totally agree with that. I found the feel of SS a lot like gold plating but with a lot more durability. I recently made the move to a Fossi CB piece on my CC tuba and play a Parker Hitz on F tuba. Both are so much more comfortable and I found that it has a lot less overtones and more fundamental in my sound. Maybe it is just me but I find them less bright of a sound.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby doublebuzzing » Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:03 pm

One of the drawbacks, apparently, is that the stainless steel introduces some intonation quirks that are not present with regular mouthpieces. Chris Olka spoke about this issue and why he doesn't use SS mouthpieces on a facebook live stream about mouthpieces.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby bloke » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:01 pm

which ones...with which specific interior shapes...compared to which silver plated brass ones...with which specific interior shapes...on which moon phases...during which months...on which leap years...??

my brass prototypes...I went ahead and plated them...and stuck them in the gloveboxes of various cars...just in case I'm dumb enough to show up for a gig without a mouthpiece...I've never used any of them...but they would play as good as the steel ones."

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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby the elephant » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:54 pm

doublebuzzing wrote:One of the drawbacks, apparently, is that the stainless steel introduces some intonation quirks that are not present with regular mouthpieces. Chris Olka spoke about this issue and why he doesn't use SS mouthpieces on a facebook live stream about mouthpieces.


That sounds nutty. The shape affects pitch. The material does not. Sorry. No way. Please provide a link to this video.
In the multiverse there is a TubeNet where we talk about how we greased our cat with toothpaste and hot sauce so it would fly better in the rain. Even then someone would ask whether the cat was lacquered or silver plated.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Bill B » Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:29 pm

Chris Olka was not talking about the intonation of the pitch itself, but rather about the strength of the overtones interfering with tuning of a section. In particular, he said the the 4th partial (major 3rd) is a lot stronger on stainless steel mouthpieces, and if the low brass is for example playing a g minor chord, with the tuba playing a G, the strength of the major 3rd in the tuba would work against the minor third in the the trombones making the group intonation and projection much less effective. I personally have no opinion on this theory, just passing it along.
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Steel over Brass

Postby Robert Tucci » Wed Aug 09, 2017 9:44 am

As always, I read through postings. People have much to say and we have ears to listen...
Chris Olka for whom I have great respect brought out an interesting point as to hard metals. There are similarities with standard shell and heavy shell mouthpieces. Mine we make from good-quality extruded brass for valid reasons both from a manufacturing standpoint and in the final evaluation, for musical reasons. Hard material dulls overtone composition, stiffens response. Most current production instruments tend heavy: these do not benefit from such characteristics.

My base model "50" (RT-50 / PT-50 / PT-50L / PT-50+ / MB-50 (Canadian Brass) and the MR-P 5.0 all have the same cup. On the other hand, all have different shell weights. The lightest production model is the MB-50, the heaviest the RT-50+ or PT-50+. Normally and as required, I run some or all variations of this excellent and successful base model at the same time, give much attention to consistancy and good playing qualities. In addition to the above, I also made some very light ones, refered to as "skeletonized". Lining these up next to each other and using the same instrument, the response and tonal variations are fully obvious. The light-shell mouthpieces are rather flexible in tone and have a quick response. The one really heavy one, the RT or PT-50+, is the limit based on considerable experience. Anything heavier or harder (steel) would fall into the category of "limited use". At that and in due respect to others who work hard to make good products, there are players who sound very good on steel mouthpieces. This I will qualify: "If the results are what they percieve, all well and good" (add the extra cost...). The only other point of comparison would be with a mouthpiece made out of plastic. Good for freezing weather, otherwise of no practical value.

With RT / PT / CB (Canadian Brass) and other mouthpieces I make, we stay with brass; this gets the best results. As for plating: we polish our mouthpieces, cups included, to a brilliant finish, have a full-time chemist to monitor the in-house plating facility and have had practically no complaints about the silverplate on our mouthpieces. One or the other of mine have seen years of daily use: the silver is still there. Care is important of course. It is not advisable to set a mouthpiece down on it's rim surface for example.

Bottom line remains the same: people spend their hard-earned money for something that benefits them, not for the "features". Someone's remark sometime ago about the "Triple Blindfold Test" has validty. My personal testing has invariably been in large orchestras, most of the time with full-scale orchestral works. If a mouthpiece sound good and works well is such a situation, it is likely a good one.

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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Donn » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:38 am

Brass is indeed the only material that a serious player should consider, but let's not kid ourselves, you can't just buy a new brass mouthpiece and get the full benefit. The best brass mouthpieces reach their ideal tonal characteristics after years, really decades, of use, as the semi-crystalline metallic structure of the alloy slowly realigns, in harmony with its musical regimen. These are the mouthpieces, well known to the professional brass player, that play themselves, giving the player effortless control over pitch and nuance of expression throughout the compass, at every dynamic level.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby bloke » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:51 am

:lol:
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby bloke » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:08 am

:x Interior shape is the A and the Z, the alpha and the omega.
The rim material can have an effect on how grabby or slippery a rim is - just as can rim contour - and (sure) that has an effect on the final sound, but otherwise INTERIOR shape, shape, shape, and shape.

Comparing a silver-plated brass mouthpiece with one interior shape and rim contour to a stainless steel mouthpiece with another interior shape and rim contour - and attributing their differences to material is - well... - misguided.

example: Super-expensive blob-shaped-exterior tuba mouthpieces' playing characteristics are attributed (by many) to the blob of material surrounding the interior shape, but when one takes a close look at the most commonly-sold versions of those mouthpieces, it is seen that a VERY unusual INTERIOR characteristic - a small, nearly cylindrical back-bore - is featured with those mouthpieces. That characteristic, I would offer, is the "distinctive" characteristic of those mouthpieces, with the blob of metal (along with it's extra pressure on the player's thighs - unless a player uses a playing stand) being a distraction, as well as a mis-attribution.

Agenda-driven posts offer no information. Buy a mouthpiece with an interior shape and rim contour that you like. If plated, care for it very well (not setting it on ~any~ surfaces, and storing it in a very soft-lined pouch) so that you can preserve it without having to have it buffed (which would distort its rim contour) and re-plated every few years. I've watched a few players baby their silver-plated brass mouthpieces and extend the life of the plating for a decade. Truth be told, a large percentage of brass players switch mouthpieces before than many years pass.

Regardless of credentials - and/or how much I may really like someone - not everyone's observations are always correct.
Even two precisely-the-same versions of a silver-plated brass mouthpiece and a stainless steel mouthpiece with a securely blindfolded player wouldn't necessarily be a scientific test, because (as we all know, from beginner to top-level professional) if we play and record a passage ten times in a row (yes, with the same mouthpiece and tuba) we can go back and pick the best rendition of the bunch (as this is how the vast majority professional recordings are made - piecing together the best-performed versions of passages), so as we ourselves (the players, and yes - including the very best among us) are not 100% consistent, there really can be no scientific experiment here.

MY mouthpieces...??
I grew weary of buffing (distorting) and re-plating the rims of my favorite mouthpieces. I tried stainless steel, realized that I was getting the same results (again, with a much more durable and remaining-smooth surface against my skin) and stuck with it. The very first one: I had seven of them made (to cover the scanning and CAD costs) Some TubeNet people will remember this...and it took off from there.
:arrow: If you do not like any of my (yes: only) four cups, any of my rims (in their various opening sizes and depths), or any of my back-bores, you won't like my "stainless steel" mouthpieces...but it will ~not~ be because of the stainless steel. ...even if you make a lot of money playing the tuba, even if you hold a very prestigious position, and even if you and I are friends. :arrow: NEITHER would you like them were they made of silver plated brass. :|
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Stryk » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:41 am

I have several mouthpieces that I like, and play regularly. One is gold plated brass, one is silver plated brass with a gold plated rim, one is stainless with a stainless rim, and one is stainless with a plastic rim. I attribute the VERY slightly different sounds to the size and shape of the cup and backbore and not to the materials.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Stryk » Wed Aug 09, 2017 11:47 am

BBruce107 wrote: I found the feel of SS a lot like gold plating but with a lot more durability.


I practice 1-2 hours a day 5-6 days a week, 2 rehearsals and one performance almost every week. I see no wear on my mouthpieces. I have a Mt. Vernon Bach 18 I used for 35 years in the same manner (and a few years MUCH more use) that doesn't even show slight wear. I can see where body chemistry may cause plating to disintegrate, but don't think normal wear can do that.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby bloke » Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:58 pm

Stryk wrote:I can see where body chemistry may cause plating to disintegrate, but don't think normal wear can do that.


Many people set their mouthpieces down on surfaces and/or play with beard stubble. Both of these can put deep enough (albeit very small...but also very many) scratches into the surfaces of silver plated brass mouthpieces that those mouthpieces begin to not "glide" across a player's skin as they did when new.

Can a stainless steel mouthpiece be scratched? Of course it can. If it couldn't be scratched, it couldn't have been manufactured. However, the material is much harder and thus considerably more scratch/wear resistant.

Most anyone reading this knows what a brand-new mouthpiece feels like against their face.

...and please note that I make no other claims about stainless steel...neither to the positive nor the negative...and - if someone claims that an B-inside-shaped stainless steel mouthpiece has an extraneous effect on blah-blah, whereas an A-inside-shaped silver plated mouthpiece has no discernible effect on blah-blah to them (even though this is a nonsense comparison), what are, then, the extraneous effects that a silver plated brass mouthpiece has that a stainless steel mouthpiece does not have :?: :idea:
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby doublebuzzing » Wed Aug 09, 2017 4:56 pm

If this works go to the 1:27:00 or so to see Olka's remarks about it

https://www.facebook.com/events/2737830 ... 235891535/
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Donn » Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:42 pm

That explains the "4th partial (major 3rd)" part. The way I've heard it, I dare say the more common usage, partials start with the fundamental, 2nd partial is the octave etc. - in which case this would be the 5th. He's numbering them like the "harmonics", where 1st harmonic is 2nd partial.

Of course I don't buy the premise, that mouthpiece material "responds" to anything, but I wonder if some physical property of steel vs. brass could result in typical differences in throat or backbore shape, due to manufacturing issues. I have a hunch that's true with my Kellyberg - it's approximately like a Conn 120S and sounds approximately like my Faxx copy, but I bet a quarter if you get down into those tight spots, the similarity diminishes - they're different in a way that's somewhat consistent when comparing Kelly polycarbonate mouthpieces with Faxx or other plated brass, because of the way Kellys are made.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby bloke » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:14 pm

A tuba with a flat fifth partial will often offer a roughly-in-tune sixth partial.
A tuba with a roughly-in-tune fifth partial will often offer a sharp sixth partial.
If both of those open pitches are in-tune, and most all of the other open pitches are just about in-tune (albeit rare), these are typically the tubas that go all haywire (intonation-wise) when valves loops begin to be added.
About the only exception that I've found (crazy-good intonation all-around) is a carefully-selected M-W 2000 or "second edition: like model 2000" model 2155 - a model of tuba considered by the vast majority of tuba players (who are geeky, and aware of a whole bunch of models, to be "passe", or "something good for one of my students to consider").

Tubas, not mouthpieces.

"focus" issues ...various pitch ranges / various partials, etc... already covered in my previous post: individual interior shapes, or - sure - rim contours

opinions and observations: available ...but no science available regarding this topic, no matter how important the person who offers opinions and observations.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby doublebuzzing » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:51 pm

Making two mouthpieces with the exact same specs (one stainless steel, one brass) and doing a spectrographic analysis of those two mouthpieces in the same tuba with the same player and getting markedly different readings sounds closer to science than opinion to me.
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Re: Benefits of Stainless Steel over Brass

Postby Donn » Wed Aug 09, 2017 10:27 pm

That's true. It would be interesting to see the details. Classic science tends to mighty particular about that - methodology - number of trials, experimenter bias, stuff like that. The key question to me seems to be, how much do we know about how identical the mouthpieces were?
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